URC

EFFECTS OF LAUNDERINGS TREATMENT ON NATURALLY COLORED COTTON KNIT FABRICS

Natalie Kantor and Mary Ann Moore*

Florida State University


Abstract

The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of laundering with detergent alone and detergent with a fabric enhancer on naturally colored cotton. Naturally colored cottons were selected because their color intensifies with laundering.

Introduction

Organic cotton is grown without the use of synthetic chemical fertilizers, pesticides, growth regulators, or defoliants on land that has been chemical-free for a time specified by certifying agencies (Apodaca, 1992). The National Organic Standards Board passed the following definition of organic in April 1995 (Boone & Katz, 1997, p. 293). It was developed by a joint task force and incorporates language from the Codex Draft Guidelines for organically produced foods.

Organic agriculture is an ecological production management system that promotes and enhances biodiversity, biological cycles and soil biological activity. It is based on minimal use of off-farm inputs and on management practices that restore, maintain and enhance ecological harmony. “Organic” is a labeling term that denotes products produced under the authority of the Organic Foods Production Act. The principle guidelines for organic production are to use materials and practices that enhance the ecological balance of natural systems and that integrate the parts of the farming system into an ecological whole. Organic agriculture practices cannot ensure that products are completely free of residues; however, methods are used to minimize pollution from air, soil, and water. Organic food handlers, processors and retailers adhere to standards that maintain the integrity of organic agricultural products. The primary goal of organic agriculture is to optimize the health and productivity of interdependent communities of soil life, plants, animals, and people.

Organic cotton is nothing new. Organic cotton production has a long history in the United States; virtually all agriculture was grown organically before the launch of new synthetic agrichemicals following World War II. Most, but not all, of the naturally colored cotton is produced organically. Colored cotton agriculture began around 2700 BC in now present-day Egypt and Peru. Cotton commonly grew in the U.S. inan array of natural colors including brown, tan, gray, green, yellow, white and shades of red (Sally Fox, n.d.a). Years passed and from 1770 to 1788 cotton became the most widely used natural fiber and “. . . the almost universal material for employment,” in the textile industry states William Radcliffe (1828).

The Industrial Revolution’s cotton demand fueled the supply of industrial cotton looms. The naturally colored varieties grew almost extinct as the short-fibered cotton was being replaced by the long fibered all white cotton that processed better in the industrial looms. Thus, white color is readily identified in people’s minds since the industrialization of textiles in the nineteenth century (www.foxfibre.com).

Sally Fox began reinventing the natural cotton industry when she found cotton seeds while working for a cotton breeder and consequently uncovered a plant that was inherently both brown and pest resistant (1996). Also, Fox crossbred her natural colors with traditional white cotton to produce a longer fiber (Sally Fox, n.d.b). The brown genes are dominant over all of the other color genes so years or crossbreeding can occur before a new pigment is discovered (Fox, 1987, December, p. 50). “You get a color, and it’s not a great plant, and it’s not a great fiber, but it’s a color,” Fox says, “and then you keep it until you get a better plant. You just work at it year after year,” (Sally Fox, n.d.b). By 2005, retail sales of natural colored cottons are expected to reach twenty billion dollars.

Advantages of Organic

Organic and naturally colored cottons “. . . have emergedin the natural fibers market as small, consumer-driven niches whose permanence seems ensured by the major shift in values represented by environmentalism,” says Julia Apodaca, research associate at the University of Texas Natural Fibers Research and Information Center (Johnson, 1993, p. 11). “Organic and naturally colored cotton farmers are not sending a message that conventional farming is dirty,” says Apodaca, “rather, they are diversifying the products they produce to fill a niche and, in the process, are able to simply avoid having to deal with new and increasingly stringent Environmental Protection Agency regulations” (Johnson, 1993, p. 11).

There are many advantages innately attached to an organically grown product such as an assurance that no toxic chemicals were used and that organic promotes a balanced, healthy ecosystem. Organic agriculture builds healthy soils, conserves our water resources, encourages wildlife, and promotes biodiversity. “Fox Fibre offers consumers an ecological alternative in cotton: today’s purchase for tomorrow’s environment” (Athena Cotton, n.d.).

Conventional cotton is the most pesticide intensive crop grown in the United States (Athena Cotton, n.d.). Cotton farming uses between three and five percent of the world’s farmland, yet it consumes 25% of the chemical pesticides and fertilizers (A Cleaner Cotton, n.d.). It takes approximately one-third of a pound of chemicals to grow enough cotton for one T-shirt. The pesticides most frequently used in cotton production are classified among the most toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Growing cotton organically means doing without insecticides for insect and mite control, fungicides for disease control, herbicides for weed control, and defoliants for machine picking.  An estimated ten thousand four hundred people die each year from cancer related to pesticides and farm workers have the highest rate of chemical-related illnesses of any occupational group in the United States, with approximately three hundred thousand pesticide-related illnesses each year. Despite the negative statistics, the organic cotton market is slowly shifting and diminishing.

Naturally colored cottons furnish lasting color; repeated washings intensify colors, bringing out the warm and rich color tones. “The environmentally aware consumer has gained prominence in the marketplace, so that the range of business-determining parameters has been extended by a new one: the ecology. The environmentally aware consumer wants not only the right product, at the right time, at the right quantity, with the right quality, and at the right price, but he also wants the product with the right ecology” (Fleckenstein, 1992). Some of the best-known ventures to provide products to this niche consumer are Levi Strauss (Levis Naturals), Esprit (Ecollection), Dixie Yarns (Earthwise yarns), Burlington (GreenVista fabrics), and Fieldcrest Cannon (untreated, undyed, unbleached home furnishings) (Apodaca, 1993). The purpose of this study was to examine and compare the effects of repeated launderings with detergent and a fabric enhancer on the performance properties of naturally colored cotton knit fabrics. Performance properties evaluated include absorbency of textiles, appearance of fabrics after repeated home launderings, and colorfastness to laundering.

Conceptual Framework

As stated above, many qualities are innate to naturally colored cotton. Chen (n.d.) observed that after repeated launderings the green and brown naturally colored cottons crystallite area was similar or slightly larger compared to the crystallite area of the unwashed cottons. Chen concluded that an increase in the fiber moisture content after laundering could also cause an increase in the crystallite size that would result in an increase in color change. Day and Kimmel (2001) found in their evaluation of naturally colored cotton an increase in color intensity after laundering. Dickerson, Lane, and Rodriguez (1996) found that instrumental color differences were greatest after five laundry cycles with minimal differences between the tenth, fifteenth, and twentieth laundry cycles. Reinforcing their results was Gulf Coast Section’s project (2002) where samples reported change in color after the first washing, but showed greater changes in accelerated laundering tests.

After repeated launderings, fabric’s surfaces deteriorate due to normal abrasion in the laundry and drying machines. Laundering with no detergent causes more abrasive damage than laundering with detergent in the form of fiber fractures and horizontal breaks along the fibers (Mohamed & Ulrich, 1982). The fabric’s surface deterioration would result in a decrease in appearance after laundering observations.

A fabric enhancer is manufactured for consumers to use in home launderings to reduce wrinkles, maintain colors, and leaves cotton absorbent. The theory behind a fabric enhancer is that it penetrates into fibers causing them to lay level and untangled during the laundering cycle. Maintaining a flat, smooth surface keeps wrinkles from forming. Normal laundry agitation causes the fabric’s surface to deteriorate, but in combination with the fabric enhancer not to as great a degree as with detergent alone.

Conventional fabric softeners make fabrics less absorbent by coating the surface of the fibers; traditionally, this has been an exchange of absorbency for softness. Since a fabric enhancer does not coat the fibers and rinses all the way down the fiber leaving no residue behind, it should not alter the absorbency of fabrics. The absorbency, colorfastness, and appearance of fabrics laundered with detergent alone and those laundered with detergent and an enhancer should be similar. Thus for this study it was hypothesized that the specimens laundered with detergent alone and those laundered with detergent and a fabric enhancer would be similar with respect to color change, absorbency, and appearance after laundering.  

Methodology

The study was a three by four by two factorial design that included the following: (a) three cotton fabrics, (b) four laundering cycles (zero, five, ten, and twenty), and (c) two treatments, detergent alone and detergent with a fabric enhancer. Three fabrics of 100% buffalo naturally colored cotton were used in this study. Naturally colored cotton fabrics were selected because they change in color after laundering. Buffalo was selected because it is a widely used color of naturally colored cotton. All were knit constructions and included a rib, terry, and a fleece. A total of sixty-three specimens were cut from templates with the grain of the fabric according to the size required by the specific test method (AATCC, 1993). The AATCC 1993 Standard Detergent, a no phosphate detergent without optical brighteners, was the detergent that was used. And a commercially available fabric enhancer that is representative of what is available to consumers was used. Dependent variables in the study were absorbency, appearance of fabrics after repeated launderings, and colorfastness. The total number of specimens was sixty-three: nine specimens for zero launderings (control), nine specimens for five launderings with detergent, nine specimens for five launderings with detergent and enhancer, nine specimens for ten launderings with detergent, nine specimens for ten launderings with detergent and enhancer, nine specimens for twenty launderings with detergent, nine specimens for twenty launderings with detergent and enhancer. Specimens were randomly assigned to laundering and detergent/enhancer treatments.

Home Launderings

Test specimens were laundered according to AATCC Test Method 61, Colorfastness to Laundering, Home and Commercial: Accelerated. Each of the sixty-three specimens was assigned to one of the following treatments:

1)      Zero laundering or controls.
2)      Five cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent.
3)      Five cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent and a fabric enhancer.
4)      Ten cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent.
5)      Ten cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent and a fabric enhancer.
6)      Twenty cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent.
7)      Twenty cycles, AATCC 1993 Standard Reference Detergent and a fabric enhancer.

Specimens were laundered with the amount of ballast needed to make the wash load weigh four pounds. A specified water level of medium, a washing temperature of 49 +/- 3 degrees C (120 +/- 5 degrees F), and 66 +/- .1 grams of AATCC Standard Reference Detergent was adhered to. Normal cotton/sturdy cycle was utilized. Specimens were immediately removed at the end of each cycle, detangled, and tumble-dried. Specimens were conditioned according to ASTM D1776, Standard Practice for Conditioning and Testing Textiles, in an atmosphere of 70 degrees + 2 F (21 + 2˚C) and 65% + 2% RH before evaluation.

Color Change

After conditioning the specimens, the AATCC Evaluation Procedure 1, for Gray Scale for Color Change, was used to establish color change as a result of laundering. This test is implemented by visually rating the contrast between the untreated and treated specimens using the rating established by the AATCC Gray Scale for Color Change.  This scale consists of paired chips varying from light to dark gray that represents a progressive difference in color.  Treated and untreated specimens were placed side by side. Afterwards, the gray mask was placed over the specimens to prevent any influences. Three observers compared the visual color change between the treated and untreated specimens with the color changes represented by the Gray Scale. A grade of 5 represents no perceived color change was present while a grade of 1 representes the most color changes. 

Absorbency

After conditioning specimens, the AATCC Test Method 79 that determines absorbency was used. A drop of distilled water was allowed to fall from a fixed height of 10+/- 1mm (.375 in.) onto the surface of each test specimen. An embroidery hoop held each specimen tautly while the water absorbency time was recorded in seconds. The time was recorded when the specular reflectance of the drop could no longer be seen. Five readings were taken on each specimen and the results averaged. Five seconds or less is considered to be adequate absorbency for cotton fabrics.

Appearance of Fabrics

After conditioning specimens at standard temperature and humidity, the AATCC Test Method 124, Appearance of Fabrics after Repeated Home Laundering, was used to establish the smoothness appearance of the fabrics after repeated home launderings. After laundering and conditioning, all specimens were then evaluated by three trained observers using closely controlled viewing conditions according to AATCC standard procedures. The lighting and evaluations area used was in accordance to specification in the AATCC Test Method. Test specimens were mounted on the viewing board with the most similar three-dimensional reference replicas placed on each side of the test specimen. A numerical grade was established that most closely represented the smoothness of each test specimen; the grade of the reference replica that most nearly resembled the specimen was assigned. An SA-5 grade represents the smoothest appearance while an SA-1 grade represents the poorest appearance or heavily wrinkled fabric. Each observer independently gave three ratings that were averaged.

Results

Absorbency of Textiles

All specimens were subjected to standard home laundering procedures and then were evaluated for absorbency. Five absorbency times were recorded per specimen and averaged. All of the cotton knit fabric’s absorbencies were considerably altered during laundering. After laundering treatments, absorbency times ranged from 0.18 seconds for the rib at 20 launderings with only detergent to 7.83 seconds for the fleece at 5 launderings with both detergent and enhancer. The rib knit was the most absorbent.

All fabrics supported the research hypothesis. The average difference was taken from all specimens and a difference of 2.56 seconds between those laundered only with detergent and those laundered with detergent and fabric enhancer after five cycles. The average difference between specimens laundered for 10 cycles with detergent only and with detergent and fabric enhancer was 0.39 seconds. After 20 laundering cycles, the difference between specimens laundered with only detergent and those laundered with both detergent and fabric enhancer was 0.72. In all the specimens the use of fabric enhancer decreased absorbency times in comparison to the absorbency times of those specimens not treated with the fabric enhancer.

For all specimens, absorbency increased (time decreased) respectively as the laundering cycles increased. The higher the number of laundering cycles the specimen was subjected to, the more absorbent the specimens became. It is interesting to note that the terry increased in absorbency as the launderings increased with both the detergent and enhancer; this is important since absorbency is important in terry construction.

Table 1. Absorbency of fabrics after laundering

Fabric

Treatment

Laundering Cycles

Mean Value

Rib

Detergent only

5

1.23

 

 

10

0.62

 

 

20

0.18

 

Detergent and Enhancer

5

3.47

 

 

10

0.57

 

 

20

1.09

Fleece

Detergent Only

5

4.47

 

 

10

0.92

 

 

20

0.25

 

Detergent and Enhancer

5

7.83

 

 

10

1.75

 

 

20

0.89

Terry

Detergent Only

5

5.08

 

 

10

1.27

 

 

20

0.29

 

Detergent and Enhancer

5

7.23

 

 

10

1.66

 

 

20

0.92

 

Appearance of Fabrics after Repeated Home Launderings

All of the cotton knit fabric’s appearances were altered during laundering. The control specimens had an average appearance score of 3.5 or higher. The French Terry fabric had the highest initial appearance rating and also experienced the greatest amount of change after laundering. The terry specimens laundered with detergent only were smoother than those laundered with both detergent and enhancer. The fleece had an average decrease in rating of 0.35 after laundering while the rib had an average decrease in rating of 0.24. Overall, the fleece was smoother after 5 and 20 laundering cycles with the enhancer than the detergent alone.  The rib experienced the same smoothness with the detergent alone compared to the detergent and enhancer. All fabrics experienced the greatest decrease in ratings after fifth laundering cycles. The hypothesis was supported in that the appearance of the specimens after laundering was similar between those laundered with only detergent and those laundered with both.

Table 2. Appearance of fabrics after laundering

Fabric

Cycle

Treatment

Observer

Average

Mean

Value

1

 

2

3

Rib

0

N/A

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.5

 

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

 

 

 

3.5

3

4

3.5

 

 

5

Detergent

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

3.22

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

3.33

 

 

 

3

3.5

3

3.17

 

 

10

Detergent

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3

3

3.5

3.17

3.28

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3

3.33

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

 

3

3

3.5

3.17

3.22

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

 

 

20

Detergent

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3

3

3.5

3.17

3.28

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3

3.33

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

3.5

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

3.28

 

 

 

3

3.5

3.5

3.33

 

Fleece

0

N/A

3.5

3.5

4

3.67

 

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

3.50

 

 

 

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

5

Detergent

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

3.06

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

3.17

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

 

 

10

Detergent

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

3.17

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

3.11

 

 

 

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

20

Detergent

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

 

3

3.5

3.5

3.33

3.11

 

2

 

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

 

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

3.33

 

 

 

3.5

3.5

3.5

3.50

 

Terry

0

N/A

4

3

3.5

3.50

 

 

 

 

3.5

4

3.5

3.67

3.67

 

 

 

4

3.5

4

3.83

 

 

5

Detergent

3.5

3.5

3

3.33

 

 

 

 

3

3.5

3

3.17

3.28

 

 

 

3

3.5

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

3.06

 

 

 

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

10

Detergent

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

3.28

 

 

 

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3.5

3

3

3.17

 

 

 

 

2

2

3

2.33

2.89

 

 

 

3

3

3.5

3.17

 

 

20

Detergent

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

3.22

 

 

 

3

3

3.5

3.17

 

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

3

3

3.00

 

 

 

 

3.5

3

3

3.17

3.17

 

 

 

3.5

3

3.5

3.33

 

 

Colorfastness to Laundering

All specimens were subjected to standard home laundering procedures, conditioned, and then evaluated by three trained observers. This test is implemented by visually rating the contrast between the untreated and treated specimens using the rating established by the Gray Scale for Color Change. Treated and untreated specimens were placed side by side. A grade of 5 was given when no perceived color change was present. A grade of 1 represented the most color change. All of the fabric changed color after laundering. In almost all cases, as the laundering cycles increased so did the color change. The color intensified with the launderings. The enhancer did not prevent the specimens from changing color after launderings.

Table 3. Color change after laundering.

 

Fabric

 

Cycles

 

Treatment

Observer

1

2

3

Rib

5

Detergent

3

3

4

 

 

 

3

3

4

 

 

 

3

2

3

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

2-3

3-4

 

 

 

3

2-3

4

 

 

 

3

3

3-4

 

10

Detergent

1-2

2-3

3-4

 

 

 

3

2-3

4

 

 

 

3

2-3

3-4

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

2

3

3

 

 

 

3

3

3-4

 

 

 

3

2

3-4

 

20

Detergent

2-3

2-3

3

 

 

 

2-3

2-3

3

 

 

 

2-3

2-3

2-3

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

2-3

2-3

3

 

 

 

2-3

3

3-4

 

 

 

3

3

3-4

Fleece

5

Detergent

3

2-3

3-4

 

 

 

3

2

3-4

 

 

 

2-3

2

3-4

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

2-3

2

3

 

 

 

3

2

3

 

 

 

3

2

3

 

10

Detergent

3

2-3

3-4

 

 

 

3-4

2-3

3-4

 

 

 

2-3

2-3

3

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

4-5

2

3

 

 

 

4

2

3-4

 

 

 

3

2

3

 

20

Detergent

2-3

1-2

3

 

 

 

4

2

3

 

 

 

2-3

1-2

3

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3

2

3

 

 

 

3

2-3

3

 

 

 

3

2

3-4

Terry

5

Detergent

3-4

2-3

3

 

 

 

4-5

2

2-3

 

 

 

3-4

2

2

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

4

2

3

 

 

 

3-4

2-3

2-3

 

 

 

4-5

2-3

2

 

10

Detergent

3-4

2-3

2-3

 

 

 

3

2-3

2

 

 

 

4

2-3

2

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

3-4

2

2-3

 

 

 

3

2

2-3

 

 

 

3-4

2

2-3

 

20

Detergent

3-4

2-3

2

 

 

 

3-4

2

2-3

 

 

 

3-4

2-3

2

 

 

Detergent & Enhancer

4-5

2

2-3

 

 

 

3

2-3

2

 

 

 

3

2-3

2-3

 

Summary and Conclusion

Specimens were subjected to standard home laundering procedures, conditioned, and then evaluated by three observers.  Visually rating the contrast between the untreated and treated specimens was utilized. The appearances of all three naturally colored cotton knit fabrics were altered during laundering. Use of a fabric enhancer resulted in decreased absorbency times in comparison to the absorbency times of those specimens laundered with only a detergent. An important fabric performance in terry construction is absorbency; in this study the terry increased in absorbency as the launderings increased with both the detergent and enhancer. Laundering resulted in color change for all three fabrics. In almost all cases, as the laundering cycles increased so did the color change; the color intensified with the launderings. The enhancer did not cause the specimens to have a greater color change than detergent alone.

References

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Apodaca, J. K. (1993, January). A brief overview of naturally colored and organic niche cottons: production, marketing, processing, retailing. Paper presented at the meeting of the Beltwide Cotton Conference, January 10-14, New Orleans, LA.

Athena Cotton: The Benefits of Organic. (n.d.). Retrieved December 4, 2002, from FoxFibre & Colour-By Nature Web site: www.foxfibre.com/benefits_of_organic.htm.

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Day, M.P., &. Kimmel, L.B. (2001). New life for an old fiber: Attributes and advantages of naturally colored cotton. AATCC Review, 1, 32-35.

Dickerson, D., Lane, E., & Rodriguez, D. (1996). Evaluation of selected performance characteristics of naturally colored cotton knit fabrics. Fresno, CA: California Agriculture Technology Institute.

Fleckenstein, Erwin. 1992. "Ecology and Textile Finishing." Melliand Textilberichte 73 (March): E112-E118. Translation of Melliand Textilberichte 73 (February 1992): 156-163.

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Fox, S. (1987, December). In search of colored cotton. Spin-Off, 48-50.

Gulf Coast Section IPC Committee. (2002). Naturally colored cotton for specialty textile products. AATCC Review, 2, 25-29.

Johnson, C. (1993, February). Color them intrigued. Farm Journal, 11.

Mohamed, S. S., & Ulrich, M. M. (1982). Effect of laundry conditions on abrasion or mercerized DP natural blend cotton/PET. American Dyestuff Reporter, 71(7), 38-41.

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Sally Fox and Natural Cotton. (n.d.a). Retrieved December 4, 2002, from: inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blfox.htm.

Sally Fox: Innovation in the Field. (n.d.b). Retrieved December 4, 2002, from the FoxFibre & Colour-By Nature Web site: www.foxfibre.com/sally_fox_story.htm.

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